Monday, May 24, 2010

Book: The Big Bang, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (2010)

Spillane began this book in the mid-1960s. Collins, a Spillane friend and collaborator, finished it. Billed as “the lost Mike Hammer sixties novel,” it’s set then. But it’s here now, and it kicks ass.

Hammer’s back in New York after a Florida sojourn to rest up from a botched Mob hit when he happens onto some punks savaging a decent kid. Hammer intervenes, so naturally a few of the punks wind up dead. (Not known for half-measures, our Mike.) He’s prepared to write it off as a good deed, but he has some questions about why the hoods chose this particular target. Answering them puts Hammer between an old enemy and a new player on the drug scene, both vying for a monumental shipment – the big bang of the title – that will sate the hunger on the streets.

There are two words I was hoping to avoid when talking up this book, but I can’t think of improvements. One is seamless; the two authors tell the tale in a single cohesive voice. The other is vintage. The Big Bang recaptures Spillane at his peak. The lightning pace. The sense of New York as an open sewer. The swift, brutal violence. The women unable to resist Hammer’s Neanderthal charm, Hammer picking and choosing their company knowing he has the luscious Velda to go home to. I had a pretty good idea early on who was behind it all, but there’s a clear sense that Hammer does, too. Then the ending blindsides you and ups the ante considerably. The Big Bang is a blast.

At The Rap Sheet, J. Kingston Pierce interviews Collins on how this book came to be, as well as his many other projects.